I recently had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., as president of the Western Montana Chapter of Safari Club International. Annually, we meet with elected officials discussing legislation important to hunters. We have over 200 people from SCI involved in such meetings.
Congressman Steve Daines spoke passionately about his lifetime of hunting, discussing the importance of public land access with an amazing story about his daughter’s mule deer hunt in the Bears Paw Mountains.
Our next meeting was with Sen. Jon Tester. For the third year, he was unavailable; however, we met with Tester’s chief of staff, Tom Lopach.
Two portions of this meeting stick out vividly. First, Lopach said that the senator most likely would not support legislation (and possibly by default, businesses) that the Humane Society of the United States opposes. If you’re passionate in believing hunters are the true conservationists, your business benefits from the hunting industry or ranching and livestock, this cowering to special interest lobbies is quite alarming.
When I brought up concern that the senator recently voted for expanded background checks on firearm purchases, while Sen. Max Baucus voted against it, the chief of staff opened a folder and handed copies of a 2012 campaign advertisement in which SCI’s political action committee (SCI-PAC) supported his opponent in last year’s elections. It was disturbing to be brashly handed such a campaign advertisement in the senator’s office. I’m not sure if this was even legal, but it was certainly unprofessional. It was clear from that moment, meeting with him as a constituent was meaningless.
As a senator who declared his hunting and ranching credentials in the last campaign, were we misled? I am fearful the issues that concern Montanans like myself aren’t important until his next election.
Jon Wemple, Victor